By Linda Rodriguez
Last week, I interrupted my frantic dash toward the novel deadline from hell to do two phone interviews. After all, unrealistic deadline or not, I still have to promote my brand-new book, Every Broken Trust. So I spent 1 ½ hours one day being interviewed by a reporter for The Kansas City Star and slightly more than 1 ½ hours another day being interviewed by a reporter from Cosmopolitan. Yes! Cosmo has done a profile on me!
Of course, I welcome a feature article in the Star, the largest newspaper between Chicago and California. Last year, they did one on my debut novel, Every Last Secret, and gave me a whole page with a big color photo of the book and me on the front page of the Arts and Entertainment section. That’s the kind of publicity you can’t buy—and can’t usually get even with a paid publicist. And as for Cosmo with its audience in the hundreds of thousands—guess I don’t have to say much else but that, do I?
I’ve had nightmares about each of these interviews ever since I did them. I always do with interviews. I go into them promising myself I’ll be careful and remember the disaster I once encountered, but then I get involved in the conversation and tend to forget. After it’s over, I suddenly remember that I wasn’t careful, and I try to remember everything I said and how it can be twisted and misused against me. And there’s a good reason for my fear.
Before I got sick and had to leave my job of many years (which opened the doors for my writing), I was the director of a university women’s center, one of the oldest in the country. I often had to give radio, TV, and print interviews or was asked to write opinion pieces by newspapers and magazines on women’s issues. I’d become sort of an old pro at it. One day the brand-new network TV station in town, Fox, called and asked for an interview the next day about pornography’s effects on women. I agreed and set about research to be able to give an up-to-date, informed opinion on the matter and to back it up with facts. (Fox hadn’t developed the reputation it now has. It was still flying under the radar at that point.)
The next day I’m dressed in my nice red suit (better for TV), and the Fox reporter and I are sitting in my beautiful women’s center’s library with built-in walnut bookcases full of books surrounding us while a cameraman films us. We talked for over an hour. To my surprise, the reporter was very knowledgeable about the issue and some of the latest research, and his questions were appropriate and insightful. He told me at the end that they would need to edit it down drastically, and I said, “Of course.”
When it appeared on the newscast a week later, it became clear that another reporter had wanted a junket to a porn-maker’s convention in Las Vegas, and that was what the whole thing was about. It ran ten minutes and was like an infomercial for porno films. I was the only woman in the segment who was over 30, fully clothed, and not surgically enhanced, and they gave me one line, which was not only ripped out of context, but edited, snipping the middle out of it, to make it sound like the dowdy, old feminazi had condemned all porn (which I hadn’t). Of all the times I’d been on TV or radio or in the paper, this was the one the most people saw—my neighbors, my son’s gastroenterologist, my hairdresser, the checker at the grocery store, strangers everywhere I went. And then, because it was a highly rated segment, they replayed it six months later during sweeps.
So I’ve learned the hard way to beware of interviews, especially those where we’re having intelligent, nuanced discussions. I know how it can be turned against me. I really don’t expect the Star’s article, which will be out Sunday, June 30, to be horrible. They’re ethical journalists, and they’ve always been good to me. And the Cosmo interview was done by a person I know whose work I respect. But I have to admit I had some bad nights over that one. I’d remember some of the things we talked about and worry, “Oh no, think what he could do with that statement if he took it out of context.” And then, of course, there’s the fact that it’s Cosmo. Would this be another case of being made out to be the stodgy, old feminazi sandwiched in among the sexy girls?
Actually, I am sort of sandwiched between “The Joys of Hangover Sex” and “Hot Sex Tips,” but the Cosmo profile is very nice—and I’m grateful to have that opportunity to connect with all those potential readers. Nothing was taken out of context, and the reporter did a lovely job. http://www.cosmopolitan.com/cosmo-latina/blog/author-linda-rodriguez-interview
But I never forget what it could have been. Fox-TV scarred me for life when it comes to interviews.
Have you had sad or maddening experiences with interviews or being misquoted or misrepresented somehow? How do you feel when someone wants an interview (other than a written Q and A where it’s so much easier to have some control)?